Poland is a particularly good example. To the accompaniment of its own political proclamations trumpeting its loyalty to “democracy,” “European values,” and regional cooperation, the government in Warsaw is hurrying to get its hands on one particular multimillion-euro jackpot and make a decent chunk of money off its neighbors, in particular, fellow members of the Visegrad Group - Slovakia and Hungary, as well as Romania and Lithuania.
Brilliant in its simplicity and profitability, this plan was developed by the Polish Ministry of Defense, along with the state-owned national conglomerate, the Polish Armaments Group (PGZ SA). It proposes to develop and manufacture a new amphibious light armored reconnaissance vehicle (LAR), intended to protect Eastern Europeans from the notorious “Russian menace.”
Naturally, not only Poland’s resources will be involved in the project. The German company Rheinmetall – based in Düsseldorf and well known for its innovative military products – will also lend a hand. The initial plan is to produce 200 LARs, and the Polish Ministry of Defense estimates that it will cost at least 300 million euros to purchase them.
That is a considerable sum, and the question arises – what is the motive behind these expenses? Warsaw’s line of reasoning is not particularly novel and boils down to the need to respond to “Russia’s rising military presence in Eastern Europe,” given the backdrop of the Ukrainian crisis.
Of course, the only one who could believe that armored warfare was imminent between Russia and Poland would have to be a devotee of the lunatic American secretary of defense, James Forrestal, who threw himself out of a window shouting “The Russians are coming!” But let’s not rush to accuse the Polish military of paranoia. It’s all much simpler. Neither the Poles themselves, nor the Slovaks, Hungarians, Romanians, or Lithuanians would pay even once for a chimera of a war with Russia, let alone shell out for it twice. First – to produce the LARs, and then again to purchase them.
So, the first act of the financial play by the defense ministry in Warsaw consists of the following. The countries of Central and Eastern Europe are invited to create a Regional Security Assistance Program. Its task is to collect public and private funds to pay for rearming their national armies under the banner of countering Russia’s “military threat.”
Once the needed funds are amassed, the “master scammers” from Warsaw will proceed to the second stage. Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Lithuania will be invited to purchase the LARs that were built using their own capital. What for? For the purpose of replacing the BRDM-2 armored vehicles that they currently have in service, which, by the way, are fully adequate to satisfy not only their national interests, but even NATO requirements. As a result of this two-step payment – first for production, and then for acquisition – Poland’s regional neighbors will be able to acquire an expensive Polish-German dream vehicle at double the price and with no opponent to use it against.
Nor are the Germans getting the short end of the stick. Revenues earned by the Munich-based tank manufacturer KMW fell to 750 million euros in 2014 from 790 million euros in 2013, and so now they are hoping to cash in on East European fears. The German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung has this to say: “German arms manufacturers could benefit from an increase in the number of global regions in crisis.”
A spokesman for Düsseldorf’s Rheinmetall AG stated openly that the crisis in Ukraine has given the defense industry a “political shove”, yet he did not specify against whom the German and Polish tanks and LARs would be fighting. But it has already been calculated that orders from Eastern Europe will make it possible for the company to bring in 2.4 billion euros in revenue in 2015 from the sale of military equipment.
However, one potential enemy for the Slovaks, Romanians, and Hungarians could still emerge – in the form of Ukrainian nationalists, who do not respect the rights of their fellow Slavs in the western regions of the country. Mykola Malomuzh, the former head of the Foreign Intelligence Service of Ukraine, has already warned Kiev that if the conflict in Ukraine escalates, at least five nations are prepared to send in troops.
He claims that all those neighboring countries have territorial claims against Ukraine and they will put that issue on the table at the first opportunity. “Five countries have maintained strategic and political interests, as well as territorial claims against Ukraine. And now they also have plans. If the situation in Ukraine becomes more complicated, several neighboring countries are prepared to use any pretext – the protection of their territory, citizens, etc. – to invade us,” stated Malomuzh.
This is probably not the type of conflict that Warsaw is envisioning as it offers Ukraine’s neighbors the opportunity to arm themselves. But when you can get paid twice for a single product (and one that isn’t even particularly necessary), then you can forget all about the idea of Polish-Ukrainian brotherhood. After all, as was said long before there ever was a Polish Ministry of Defense, money does not smell.